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Gaffer | "We will have to be at our very best"

Manager Steve Evans says Saturday's visit of Oxford will be a real test for his side.

9 October 2020

Gaffer previews Oxford visit.

Steve Evans has praised his young Gills squad for their impressive start to the season, but warned they will need to be at the top of their game when they lock horns with Oxford on Saturday.

The Sky Bet League One fixture with the U’s offers the Gills, currently in sixth place, a chance to firm up their position at the top end of the league.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference, the boss said: “It is a real test of our credentials. We’ve had a really, really good start to the season. Everyone would acknowledge that. It becomes very, very good if we could get something against Oxford. If we could win the game it becomes an outstanding start to the season.

“The one thing they’ve got is really good resources and they spend really well. They have an outstanding squad and a very capable manager. They are a good football club.

“We will have to be at our very, very best on Saturday to get something from this game.”

One player Evans will be relying on to put in a shift will be the dependable Connor Ogilvie, a player who is starting to catch the attention of clubs higher up the football pyramid, including an unnamed SPL team.

“No chance is he leaving,” insist Evans. “He is staying. It was a top, top football club who made the enquiry. The manager called me and asked if I would be prepared to sell. He said a figure and I said it was unlikely but I’ll come back to you and I’ll have to take that decision to the boss.

“The Chairman said, ‘Do you want him?’ and I said, ‘Of course I want him!’

“We live in the real world that everyone has a price, but Connor is a part of what we are trying to work for. We’re trying to put a young squad together.”

The Gills gaffer expressed his interest in perhaps adding players to his team but insisted he will only make moves if he feels they fit the team dynamic.

“There may be one… at a push two; we’re really down in terms of head count. We are not in any hurry but we’ve got some irons in the fire.

“We’ve been patched up for some weeks regarding injuries. I’d like to think, with a little luck, two weeks down the line we’ll be having 20 players available, which is a luxury to us.”

Evans spoke warmly about the players he does have at his disposal, who he says are growing in confidence and forging strong partnerships across the pitch.

He said: “This is a new group. The average age is by far the youngest in the Football League.

“They’re young, they’re learning and they’re developing. Whether they are here permanently or on loan, they are here to learn their trade. We have a strategy at this Club to be younger, leaner and meaner.

“Declan Drysdale is a very good centre-back. I spoke to Mark Robins (manager of parent club Coventry) and said he can play as a midfielder and he said, ‘you’re right’. I put him in there in the second-half at Shrewsbury and I think he helped us get a point. He was excellent. He dominated the physical aspect of midfield last week.

“Josh Eccles is technically magnificent. He has to be a little more confident. He has to believe how good he is. By the same token, when you are a young player and believe in how good you are then you have to also have it in your head that you need to work harder and smarter.

“He’s a yard or two in front of most players, passes the ball well and he was also very good at Shrewsbury last week.”


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